Omega-3 Foods & Delicious Recipes for Better Health

Omega 3 foods are essential for maintaining overall health and well-being.

These powerful fatty acids play a critical role in heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.

In this article, we will explore a variety of omega 3 foods that can help you meet your daily nutritional needs.

From fatty fish and chia seeds to walnuts and flaxseeds, incorporating these nutrient-dense options into your diet will ensure you reap the numerous benefits of omega 3 fatty acids.

High Omega 3 Foods (Per Serving)

If you find yourself falling short of the recommended omega-3 intake, it’s time to focus on foods that pack in more vitamin omega-3 per serving, like:

  • salmon
  • cod liver oil
  • sardines
  • flax seeds
  • walnuts
  • mackerel
  • oyster
  • tuna
  • mussels
  • natto
  • lamb chops
  • T-bone steak

To help you get started, the infographic below shows the omega-3 provided by popular foods in the average serving sizes consumed by our Optimisers.

high omega 3 foods (per serving)

Once you’re ready to revitalise your diet with a wider variety of high-omega-3 foods, download our printable list of foods with more omega-3 per serving here.

It’s important to remember that animal foods are the only sources of both bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). 

While plant foods may contain some omega-3 fatty acids, most are in their inactive alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) form.  Thus, they are not bioavailable.  Those plant foods that do contain DHA and EPA—like marine algae—are inefficient, and we would have to consume large amounts of plant-based supplements to supply our needs.

Omega 3 Rich Foods (Per Calorie)

Once you know you’re getting the minimum amount of omega-3 your body needs, you can zero in on foods that deliver more omega-3 per calorie to increase your satiety and nutrient density, like:

  • flax seeds
  • caviar
  • cod liver oil
  • hemp seeds
  • salmon
  • walnuts
  • oyster
  • mackerel
  • tuna
  • squid
  • mussels
  • natto

The infographic below shows popular foods that provide more omega-3 per calorie.

omega 3 rich foods (per calorie)

For more variety, check out our printable list of omega-3-rich foods per calorie.

Omega 3 Foods Chart

Curious about how your favourite foods stack up in the omega-3 game?  Dive into our dynamic chart showcasing popular foods, comparing omega-3 content per calorie and serving.  For an immersive experience, explore the interactive version of this omega 3 foods chart.

omega 3 foods chart

How Much Omega-3 Do You Need?

Our satiety analysis suggests that your body craves at least 2.5 g of omega-3 per 2000 calories.  Achieving the Optimal Nutrient Intake of 5.0 g per 2000 calories from food aligns with an 18% reduction in energy intake.  However, the correlation between omega-3 and energy intake is quite weak as other nutrients play a larger role in our satiety response.

satiety response to omega 3 foods

Omega 3 Rich Recipes

Elevate your culinary game with our chart, showcasing over 1750 NutriBooster recipes used in our Micros Masterclass.  We’ve plotted these recipes based on omega-3 content versus nutrient density.  The further right you go, the more omega-3 you can enjoy with fewer calories.

omega 3 rich recipes chart

Omega-3s are one nutrient that doesn’t correlate with protein.  Leaner fish and meat contain less fat and hence fewer omega-3s.  So, once you ensure you’re getting adequate protein, it might be worth reviewing the omega-3 in your diet.

Dive into the details with our interactive Tableau chart on your computer.  Click on each recipe to uncover its magic and even feast your eyes on mouthwatering pictures!

Omega 3 Rich Recipe photos

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Heart Health:  Omega-3s have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing blood pressure, lowering triglycerides, and preventing the formation of blood clots.  They also serve as natural blood thinners.
  • Brain Health:  Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain development and function, including supporting cognitive function and mental health.  Studies have shown they can improve cognitive performance, memory, and mood.
  • Immune System: Omega-3 fatty acids may support immune system function, potentially aiding in the body’s defence against common illnesses.
  • Inflammation:  Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health problems, including arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Eye Health:  Omega-3s are important for maintaining healthy vision and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults.
  • Pregnancy and Infant Development:  Omega-3s are essential for nutrition during pregnancy and developing an infant’s brain and nervous system. They have been shown to reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Roles of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in The Body

This family of essential fatty acids helps to:

Bioavailability of Omega-3s

The three most well-known omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  

ALA is the inactive form of omega-3s found in most plant oils, whereas DHA and EPA are the active forms of omega-3s.  While they are predominantly found in animal foods, plant foods like marine algae contain relatively small amounts.  Thus, you can get trace amounts from eating these foods or opt for supplements containing concentrated amounts; you’d have to consume a substantial quantity of them to hit the RDA or (especially) the ONI.

The body can synthesise some EPA and DHA from ALA.  However, the conversion is relatively inefficient, similar to beta carotene and retinol (vitamin A).  Thus, consuming EPA and DHA from foods is extremely important.  Essentially, the animal converts the plant O3s into bioavailable ones for us. 

Omega-3s are nutrients that strict vegans and some vegetarians struggle to obtain in adequate quantities in their bioavailable forms because you must consume large amounts of expensive supplements regularly.

Interestingly, it seems women can convert more ALA to DHA and EPA for use in the body.  Healthy men can convert 8% of ALA to EPA and 0-4% to DHA, while healthy women can convert up to 21% of ALA to EPA and 9% to DHA. 

Given these low conversion rates from plant-based ALA to the bioavailable DHA and EPA, most people must find how to get DHA and EPA from fish-based sources to get enough bioavailable omega-3. 

Symptoms of Omega-3 Deficiency

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency symptoms can mask themselves as commonplace signs and symptoms.  You may need more omega-3s if you experience:

Satiety Response to Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Although omega-3s are essential, we have a relatively weak satiety response to foods and meals that contain more of them, based on our satiety analysis

People consuming more omega-3-rich foods tend to consume around 5% fewer calories than those who consume less foods high in omega-3s. 

While omega-3s are essential and beneficial, it’s not just the omega-3s that provide the satiety benefit; it’s also the other nutrients—particularly protein—that tag along in most seafood.   

How Much Omega-3 Do You Need?

The US Dietary Guidelines set a minimum intake of omega-3s at 1.1 grams per day for women and 1.6 grams per day for men.  Meanwhile, the Australian guidelines are much lower and only recommend 0.16 g per day of omega-3 fatty acids.  The average Optimiser intake is well above this at an impressive 3.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 2000 calories. 

Can You Overdose on Fish Oil and Omega-3s?

While it is difficult to overdose on omega-3 fatty acids from food alone, some mild side effects can occur if someone supplements with too many omega-3s.  

Although flaxseed oil is generally well-tolerated, high doses may cause diarrhea.  In addition, allergic and anaphylactic reactions have been reported with flaxseed and flaxseed oil ingestion. 

However, no severe adverse reactions have been reported in those using fish oil or other EPA and DHA supplements. Because of its blood-thinning effects, fish oil can cause a risk of nosebleeds and uncontrolled bleeding if consumed in high amounts. A more common side effect of EPA and DHA supplements is a fishy aftertaste, depending on the product.

If you’re using a fish-derived omega-3 supplement, biting into a capsule or choosing the liquid may be a better option.  If the oil tastes rancid or has gone bad, it could indicate the oil has oxidised.  Thus, it could be doing the opposite of what it’s intended to do!

Omega-3:Omega-6 Ratio

Rather than worrying about your omega-3 fatty acid intake, managing the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids may be more critical.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compete to use the same conversion enzymes, so consuming too much of one can deplete the other.

You can read more about the omega-3:6 ratio and which other nutrients have ratios that matter in Nutrient Balance Ratios: Do They Matter, and How Can I Manage Them?

Omega 6 Fatty Acids

While you need some omega-6 fatty acids, excessive amounts can cause inflammation and outnumber the anti-inflammatory omega-3s in the body.  A diet with excess omega-6 and little omega-3 is associated with increased inflammation.  Conversely, a diet with plenty of omega-3s and sparse omega-6s has been shown to reduce inflammation.

The chart below shows that our intake of omega-6s, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated seed oils, has been booming over the past hundred years!  Unfortunately, most of these calories come from processed seed oils.

Before the advent of agriculture, we would likely have obtained more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6s.  While the overproduction of grains has allowed us to feed more people and cattle (to feed more people), we now have an influx of foods high in omega-6s, like seed oils, margarine, and animal foods that eat high omega-6 diets.  Thus, the average omega-6:omega-3 ratio is between 12:1 to 25:1 today.

Even if you avoid bread and vegetable oils, the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in the food system is still high. Foods from animals fed on grains, including farmed fatty fish, also contain elevated amounts of omega-6s.  

For more details, see Too Much Omega-6: Are You Getting Too Much of a ‘Good Thing’?

Synergistic Nutrients

Omega-3 fatty acids work synergistically with vitamins A, B3, B6, E, gamma-tocopherol, bioflavonoids, magnesium, methionine, quercetin, selenium, and zinc.   For this reason, we recommend consuming nutrient-dense foods to get a complete spectrum of nutrients.  This ensures that the body has the full array of vitamins and minerals that work in tandem to allow omega-3s to do their job.

How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Omega-3s? 

Incorporating omega-3-rich foods into your diet promotes healthy eating and better nutrition.

Curious about your omega-3 intake?  Take our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge and discover if you’re hitting the omega-3 sweet spot in your diet.

After just one week of tracking your daily meals with Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will unveil a personalised roadmap, your guide to a healthier, more nutrient-rich lifestyle. 

You’ll receive a curated list of foods and tantalising NutriBooster recipes that not only fill your omega-3 gaps but also ensure you’re not missing out on critical nutrients.

Ready to unlock your nutrient potential?  Join the challenge and journey towards a brighter, healthier you!

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

Ready to supercharge your nutrition?  Get our Nutrient Density Starter Pack – your all-access pass to a healthier, more vibrant you!

In our quest to make Nutritional Optimisation a breeze, we’re thrilled to offer you this treasure trove of tools and resources when you join our vibrant Optimising Nutrition Community:

  • Food Lists: Discover our carefully crafted lists optimised for each essential nutrient, tailored to your goals, preferences, and unique conditions.
  • The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World: Peek into a week of mouthwatering, nutrient-dense meals that’ll leave you satisfied and energised.
  • Recipes: Download delectable samples from our NutriBooster recipe books, designed to elevate your nutrition while tantalising your taste buds.
  • 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge: Unearth your priority nutrients and pinpoint the foods and meals that pack a nutrient punch so you can kickstart your journey to better health.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to transform your nutrition effortlessly.  Join our community and unlock your path to a healthier, more vibrant you!

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